Tom, the film and the meaning of mountaineering for Tom Ballard
PlayAlpinismo films: Tom, directed by Angel Esteban and Elena Goatelli, recounts the story of Tom Ballard and his solo ascents, in a single winter, of the six most famous North Faces of the Alps. But it is also and above all a spontaneous and true portrait of a unique alpinist and his unique way of taking to the mountains. The film review by Vinicio Stefanello.
Nowadays it is hard to think of an alpinist who resembles Tom Ballard. He is unique, in fact, his story is unique. And not only that of his mountaineering. We’re not referring to his skill and his climbs, which are of course indisputable. We're talking about this young man and mountaineer who since 2009 - ever since he began traveling around the Alps in a van with his father - lives like a vagabond, doing what he likes most of all: being in the mountains, climbing mountains and, preferably, doing so alone. Because he is a solitary man and and alpinist, a true one, for real
But there is of course much more. The story of Tom is much more profound, it stems from far further back. His mother carried him in her womb when he was a mere six months old, while climbing the North Face of the Eiger solo in 1988. She, his mother, was Alison Hargreaves, Britain’s greatest female alpinist, one of greatest of all times, who perished in 1995 while descending from K2. He, Tom, along with sister, literally grew up at the foot of the mountain faces that his mother and his father climbed. When he was 4, for example, he was at Everest base camp ... In short, his is a special story, one that exceeds the imagination. This is what we are told in Tom, the beautiful film directed by Angel Esteban and Elena Goatelli, the "way of being" of a unique and indistinguishable mountaineer.
The Leitmotif of the film is that huge project that Tom Ballard completed in 2015: the ascent of the six classic north faces of the Alps, solo and in just one winter. Ballard became the first person ever to achieve this great "undertaking. And, just for the record… his mother had climbed the same 6 North Faces in summer, the first woman to do so. But let’s return to Tom and the six North Faces in a single winter. The North of Cima Grande di Lavaredo, the North Face of Pizzo Badile, the North Face of the Matterhorn, the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses, the North Face of Petit Dru and, last but not least, the North Facec of the Eiger... mentioning these is a little like reciting the "rosary" of mountaineering history.
The film - and this is one of the best intuitions of the directors of intuitions - shows us what is happening precisely while it's happening. A “live” unfolding of events that depicts the tensions but also the tranquil awareness that Tom has, and his very unique and solitary manner of experiencing the mountains and mountaineering. The long wait for Tom to return after having climbed via Comici - Dimai on Cima Grande di Lavaredo is memorable. Equally significant are the raw but powerful images that Tom shot during his ascents. And, on another sphere, there is the film within a film, the relationship between father and son, another story through time. And it’s worth mentioning their home, and base camp that for some years now they have pitched at the Campitello di Fassa campsite. All in perfect British style.
"The point is climbing mountains alone, without anyone else around. This is what’s important" says Tom in the film. And then, referring to the minimum quantity of gear he takes on his ascents and also the pegs produced by his father because "they cost too much" he says: "It is not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have that counts." Yes, Tom Ballard is truly a unique mountaineer, almost one from a different era. Indeed, Tom is a solitary alpinist who transcends time, because this is his way of being.
film review by Vinicio Stefanello
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Directed by Angel Esteban ed Elena Goatelli, 67 minutes
PlayAlpinismo - GazzaPlay:
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> The Man Who Skied Down Everest, Yuichiro Miura and that first ski descent on Everest
News archive planetmountain:
>> 20/03/2015 - Tom Ballard climbs the six North Faces of the Alps in winter!
>> 15/10/2014 - Tom Ballard, climbing in his veins